Online Community ROI: Models and Reporting – Research Study Posted

Research is a large part of the activities that I and Forum One Networks engages in. The Online Community Research Network studies and publishes 6 times a year on topics that matter to those responsible for guiding online community and social media activities in their organization.

The Online Community ROI Models and Reporting research study was initiated in February of 2008. The study was created in order to investigate further into the ROI research that we conducted in the last half of 2007, and to gain insight into specifically how organizations were valuing and reporting on their online communities activities. Further, we wanted to gain insight into who the stakeholders were for ROI metrics, and how the reports were being received.

I will be blogging highlights of the report over the next few weeks. To obtain a full copy, as well as access to all of our other research, and the professional network of online community pros, please consider joining the Online Community Research Network.

We received approximately 150 completed surveys. Participants included large software companies, large community destination sites, niche community sites, platform providers and interactive marketing and advertising firms.

Q16: Which of the following quantitative and qualitative metrics are critical for communication ROI at your organization? (question 16 from the study)
The top-ranking metrics are: Traffic patterns & statistics; Community member engagement; Unique number of visitors; New Member Registrations; Member Satisfaction; and Product Feedback / R&D ideation.

The middle-ranking metrics are: Number of referrals to the community by members; WOM generated by community; transition of lurkers into active community members; impact of the community on revenue; organization or brand-mentions on other sites; and ratio of comments per post.

When looking at the data segmented by type of respondent organization, Traffic patterns, member engagement and unique community visitors scored consistently high.

Top-ranking Metrics

Middle-ranking Metrics

Lower-ranking Metrics

Q23: What were the 1-2 compelling sources of value from your community or social media efforts that you constantly communicate?

This question was intended to solicit the “elevator pitch” stats or metrics that community managers and strategists use internally to their organization to evangelize community and social media efforts. Answers ranged from the unique ability of online communities to create value to cost reduction of existing communication channels and corporate functions.

These were all write in answers. The main themes are as follows, with selected quotes inline below. (full report contains all write in data).

1. Community helps problem solve faster and more efficiently than Customer Support, saving our company time and money:
• “Customers are able to get faster response and answers to their problem utilizing the community over contacting Customer Support.”
• “Knowledge share, and hence problem solving, is more efficient due to the community model.”
• “Using WebBoard is more efficient then email, telephones or fax. It saves us time and money and increases our ability to service the consumers in our sector.”
• “The ROI on employee time devoted to the forums far exceeds the returns on the usual support methods.” [Thus saving our organization time and money.]

2. Availability of information and content for specific areas of interest:
• “Expanded resources & knowledge for specific areas of interest and centralized resources.”
• “Niche communities, focused on specific areas of interest. Market leaders on-line and in print with high cross over traffic.”
• “You won’t find this content anywhere else – written by our members to raise best practice within vendors.”

3. Increases site traffic / more engaged relationship with us:
• “The more we invest into community, the more organic traffic we get.”
• “Our members consume 49% more average page views per session every month than non-members.”
• “Our community sites get more than 3 times the engagement for solutions, capabilities and use case content than our traditional sites.”
• “Our forum generates more page views than the site itself.”
• “Our community traffic by far exceeds traffic to all traditional product areas.”
• “Increasing site traffic proves that there is an interest and demand from our customers to have a more open and engaged in relationship with us.”
• “Our programs on average engage participants for 45 minutes each time they visit.”
• “Time spent on the site is higher on forums pages than anywhere else on the site, indicating that community members are more engaged.”
• “Views of photo albums remain the most popular area of the community. Members may not wish to participate in discussions, but they do want to see photos of their events.”
• “An online discussion moderated by subject matter experts that followed an in-person event with the same moderators achieved the most participation of any attempts to engage our users.”
• “Our social media content generates more content and discussions off site, increasing our reach.”
• “The ability of our blogs to drive customer engagement and PR activity.”

4. Idea Creation / What we learn from members of the community:
• “Ideas for our books.”
• “It’s all about what we learn from the developers through our community interactions.”
• “We will have the opportunity to get first hand feedback on products and ideas for improvements and enhancements.”
• “We discovered some problem areas in usage and service adoption that caused us to change our materials and strategy.”
• “We have been able to gather more than a thousand best practices/lessons learned in two years use.”

5. Lead Generation / Conversion:
• “Converting contacts, acquaintances, and other informal relationships into donor relationships.”
• “Converting contacts into activists and issue leaders.”
• “When we enlist our community members to represent us physically or virtually, our reach and conversion metrics dramatically increase.”

6. People are saving time / building skills by using our site:
• “In our Sourcing Professional Forum, procurement professionals are constantly sharing templates and best practices across organizations, bootstrapping their RFP effort, saving time and increasing value.”
• “People creating and building productive relationships with people that help them improve their practice or do their work better.”
• “The National Board of Certified Teachers can share best teaching practices with ease never before possible.”
• “In our premium areas, customers are using online training and certification to manage global implementations, knocking down traditional barriers to skill building in an online, social learning setting.”
• “Our users have access to every single college coach in the country. This is something no other site offers. Our site is always free to the users and they will never be charged. All of our competitors charge users to use their recruiting website.”
• “Our community members credit participation in our community with their increased skills in using our products.”

7. Build customer loyalty:
• “Anecdotal stories of knowledge sharing, connections made for business purposes and special access created through connecting members.”
• “Community members are more likely to volunteer their time, services, advice, and financial support than non-members.”
• “Employees who belong to the community almost never ‘turn over’. They are consistently the best performers out in the stores.”
• “Offering a community to your clients where they can speak to you and each other significantly increases customer loyalty.”
• “More connected members spread the word and come back frequently.”
• “If you want to understand your stakeholders and develop the relationships, you have to think in communities.”
• “Online dialogue creates a more open environment that deepens trust and team work throughout the organization.”
• “Our community has one of the highest net promoter scores for our brand of any corporate offering.”
• “Our members say that they like the site and related services – direct comprehension of value, esp. during account meetings.”
• “Research shows that customers in a community can have a sense of involvement with the company as long as we make sure they are heard and that involvement can lead to great loyalty.”
• “Our community members are actively engaged with the brand and don’t hesitate to tell us what they like, and don’t like. They feel a real sense of ownership of the brand.”
• “Our ability to personally communicate with future users of our product substantially influences their perception of our company.”
• “Increasing site traffic proves that there is an interest and demand from our customers to have a more open and engaged in relationship with us.”

8. Online community is growing our membership base:
• “In a climate where professional associations, and especially manufacturer associations, have struggled to maintain members, we have consistently and significantly increased in membership year-over-year for the past 5 years. This growth directly coincides with our implementation of online community services. Over 85% of our members find our member-only e-mail discussion groups alone to be worth the price of annual membership.”
• “95% of our members would recommend membership in our online community to other parents raising children with food allergies.”
• “Our blog has increased community participation by 80% over the past year.”
• “We boast membership in 125+ countries.”
• “We have 8000 registered members across 95% of local authorities.”
• “We have doubled the size of our community membership in the last 6 months. 2 years ago, only 34% of our Company’s upsells and renewals were also members of the Community. In 2007, 75% of our upsells and renewals were Community members.”
• “We have the largest active user community in the marketplace.”

Again, to get access to the full report, as well as other research and the professional online community network, please check out the OCRN site.

16 responses to “Online Community ROI: Models and Reporting – Research Study Posted”

  1. The Online Community Compensation study was initiated in July of 2008 as part of our ongoing research efforts with the Online Community Research Network. The intention of the study was to get a broad look at online community compensation, factors that effect compensation, and the current environment of the community team and community staff roles.

    Internet marketing

  2. […] Online Community ROI: Models and Reporting – Summary From Bill Johnston Online Community Strategy: Highlights from study conducted to investigate how organizations were valuing and reporting on their online communities activities. […]

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